Federal judge rules Uresti cannot sell property without court approval

Prosecutors concerned sale would keep victims from $3 million in restitution

SAN ANTONIO – If, as prosecutors believe, State Senator Carlos Uresti was planning to sell the office building with his name on it -- the very spot where the FBI gathered records months before his arrest on fraud and bribery charges -- he'll now need a federal judge's permission before doing so.

This week, prosecutors filed a request to keep Uresti and his family, representatives, attorneys and companies, among others, from selling, transferring, moving or otherwise getting rid of his assets. The reason: The government said Uresti will owe at least $3 million in restitution to the victims of the Ponzi scheme of which he was convicted in February.

The scheme involved the now-defunct company FourWinds that told investors it dealt in fracking sand. In trial testimony, victims said they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars on the promise they'd make a profit. Instead, they lost their investments. Uresti, Gary Cain and Stan Bates have been found guilty and await sentencing in June on fraud and money laundering charges.

Prosecutors plan to seek restitution for those victims -- money that would come from the assets of Uresti and his co-defendants.

"The Government is informed that (Uresti) is selling furniture, statues, and artwork as well as listing or preparing to list his commercial building for sale. His actions could hinder his victims' ability to recover their losses," the court filing said.

Days after Uresti's conviction, his wife filed a petition for divorce, seeking "exclusive use and possession" of their Helotes home, last appraised at $1.5 million, according to online tax records. 

"Divorce is a common asset protection device in cases where restitution is anticipated, and defendants will routinely agree to a final decree in which the non-debtor spouse receives all of the assets while the defendant receives all the debt. In these instances, the purpose of the divorce is largely to avoid the lien that will arise at sentencing ... enabling the Government to seek to apply that property to a defendant's restitution debt," the court filing said.

A judge granted the restraining order, which bars the dissipation, sale, lease or transfer of Uresti's property without prior approval of the court, including the ability to withdraw funds from Uresti's bank accounts, securities or life insurance policies.

The order also prevents the Urestis from settling their property in the divorce.

As of Thursday evening, there was no hearing date scheduled in the divorce matter.

Uresti also faces trial in May on federal bribery charges.

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